I get more questions and emails from people looking for that elusive killer progression, or killer melody, or killer anything in songwriting. But when it comes to communicating with the listener, it’s not what you’re singing, but how you’re singing it that really matters.
In fact, over the past several years that I’ve been doing this website, I think I received emails from only two people that specifically asked questions about style of music performance. That’s a bit sad, because if you really want to be a successful songwriter, what you’re actually singing is not quite as important as how you’re singing it.
Singers are communicators. And the successful ones have a way of singing their song that makes a clear and powerful connection to the public. And just because he’s been in the news lately, you can use Michael Jackson as a perfect example. What made Jackson “the King of Pop” was not the material he was singing (as good as it is), but more simply his own personal style. Just his way of standing on a stage was part of that style, and he could have audiences screaming hysterically before he even opened his mouth. That’s style.
You can’t sing garbage to people and hope to have them in the palm of your hand, so you must learn to write great songs. But the singer’s own personal performance style is a crucial part of what makes a song successful. The song is not successful if the singer isn’t successful.
Now the sad part: Successful style eludes almost all attempts to properly define it. One person’s style can (and often does) fall flat when someone else attempts to copy it. The ones who are good are the ones who do it well, but even most of those people are copiers. Every “killer stylist” (Elvis, Beatles, Jackson, etc.) have the knack of taking what people want the most, and adding to it their own stylish touch, becoming the new rave. And the best word to describe it is magic.
If you want to take your songs to the next level, your job may lie more in looking at your performing style than writing style. You need to work with a producer to develop something unique, because if you’re merely trying to sound like everything else out there, you’re going to get lost in a sea of songs that sounds like… everything else.
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